Rishi Sunak Blindsides His Own Finance MinisterTop Stories

May 23, 2024 07:50
Rishi Sunak Blindsides His Own Finance Minister

(Image source from: x.com/RishiSunak)

The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, made a covert decision to call for a rare summer election, staking the future of the Conservative Party. The move was so secretive that even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, was taken aback by the plan. Hunt's supporters were unaware of the snap election called by Sunak on Wednesday, with some fearing that a rumored announcement meant the chancellor was to be replaced. As the Prime Minister prepared to announce his decision, Hunt had to cancel media appearances and shorten his trip to a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers on Thursday in Italy. Though some ministers supported the election decision, including Communities Secretary Michael Gove, disappointment was a common sentiment among Tory MPs, including some ministers, as they absorbed the implications of a vote that could cost scores of them seats, with Hunt seen as among the most vulnerable Cabinet members.

The prediction for an improved economic situation later in the year hinged on a series of economic events that would indicate Britain's recovery. The possibility of reducing payroll taxes in an autumn fiscal statement was also raised by Hunt, but that decision will now be left to the next government. On May 12, former prime minister and current House of Lords member David Cameron supported the idea of waiting until later in the year for an election. This lack of support for a summer vote raises doubts about the Conservative party's motivation to challenge Keir Starmer's bid for prime minister. Some government officials, who chose to remain anonymous, expressed discontent with the proposed July 4 date, citing the Conservatives' 20-point lag behind the Labour Party in the polls. Another minister even suggested that Sunak's choice of timing indicated he had lost interest in becoming prime minister.

The Conservative Party faced a leadership crisis as some members became dissatisfied with their current leader. These rebels claimed that the party was in danger of being squeezed out of relevance by competitors on both the left and right, including the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Reform UK party led by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage. A number of Tory MPs criticized the timing of an upcoming election on social media, including Tracey Crouch and Dehenna Davison, who expressed disappointment that they would not be able to accomplish their parliamentary goals. The sudden election means that some important legislation promised by the Conservative Party Conference and King's Speech last year, such as a ban on smoking, may be left unfinished. Instead, Sunak has decided to capitalize on the issue of flights deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, hoping to make it a central point of the campaign. He plans to have the first flights leave by early July and use it as a talking point against Reform. However, Tory politicians were not pleased with the timing of the election or Sunak's announcement, which was made while he was getting soaked in the rain and drowned out by music from a protester. Some suggested he should have used an umbrella or given his statement indoors. Despite this, Home Secretary James Cleverly addressed a group of Conservative members and campaigners and argued that Sunak was the right person to lead them into the election.

"The government needs to make the right decisions," Cleverly stated, in agreement with Sunak's argument that a Labour government would jeopardize national security. Cleverly praised Sunak's leadership during his time as chancellor, especially for the subsidies that helped ease the pandemic's economic impact. "Thanks to the choices made by Rishi Sunak as prime minister and chancellor, inflation has returned to a reasonable level," Ceverly noted. One MP, preferring to remain anonymous, expressed satisfaction with the move, while another MP was unsure whether it was a brilliant political maneuver or a self-serving decision.

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Rishi Sunak  UK Finance Minister